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Swap sites for unwanted gifts growing

Updated: 2011-02-22 07:50

By Li Yao (China Daily)

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Exchange of unneeded Spring Festival presents growing in popularity

Beijing - This is the time of year when the patience of a researcher, as well as the eye of a keen, Internet-savvy shopper can be satisfyingly rewarding.

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Exchanging unwanted gifts given over the Spring Festival for more useful items can be big business for netizens who have been scouring online swap sites over the past few weeks. For the swap to work to the satisfaction of both parties, the items traded must be of comparable value, not always as easy as it may appear.

A wide range of gifts that did not match the receiver's requirements are on offer, including shampoo, coupons, shopping cards, expensive tea, wine and stylish iPhones, according to Su Mingxian, founder of Huanke.com, a website launched in 2008 exclusively devoted to such exchanges with 200,000 registered users.

Since the approach of the Spring Festival in late January, traffic to Su's website has reached 500,000 visitors daily, from 300,000 in early January with up to 500 new customers signing up every day, Su added.

"The peak comes after the Lantern Festival, which fell on Thursday and marked the official end of the Chinese New Year. People then have more time to think about what to do with the gifts they don't want," he said.

Business increases every Spring Festival but this year it is more pronounced, as the public show a growing acceptance of the practice, Su said.

"Exchanging goods allows you to look at what you have but don't want in a new light," a property maintenance man surnamed Liu said.

He posted a request on Feb 15 on a popular website Ganji.com, asking for computer parts such as a hard disk, in exchange for the shampoos and towels he got from his company for the Spring Festival.

Exchanges are not limited to just the festival season. In the past nine months, Liu has made four successful exchanges. He usually trades perishable items such as groceries for electronic products.

According to Liu, most participants are Internet-savvy and part of the post-'80s generation, like himself. They are beginning to start their own families and are on the lookout for staple goods and home appliances.

Besides inexpensive miscellaneous items, luxury gifts such as watches, tea, wine, liquor and high-tech gadgets are also on the virtual shelves, ready to be traded.

An iPhone4 may seem an unlikely trade for a box of tea, even if it is valued at 6,000 yuan ($911), but that is what a Beijing-based real-estate services manager surnamed Zhu has set his sights on, hoping that a potential customer is thirsty for a good beverage.

The 29-year-old said he had never tried online trading before. After talking to his friends, he gave it a try on Feb 15, with a post on Ganji.com.

"If it works well this time, I will put the liquors and wines in my home on the Internet," Zhu added, referring to the gifts he received during the Spring Festival.

As interest and participation grow, businesses see a potential niche market.

Icqmm.com has 20,000 registered users, the website's founder, surnamed Jiang, told China Daily.

Although revenue for running his website is only 1,000 yuan a month, mostly from Google and Baidu ads, Jiang is optimistic about its prospects.

"Exchanging goods, instead of trading them for money, is a further fragmentation of the electronic commerce market. The niche is too small for big companies to care, and that gives small businesses a greater chance to survive and explore the market," Jiang said.

But commercial success is not guaranteed, cautions Su Huiyan from iResearch Consulting Group.

"Geography comes into play because people tend to trade in their own area, reducing the scope of the business," Su said.

 

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